MiniArt – 1/35 - T-54-1 with interior

Even after all the years I have been reviewing model armour, this is the first MiniArt vehicle kit that I have had a close look at and I am pleased to say it is a subject I’ve really wanted to see and they have made a very nice job of it indeed.

The T-54 has been built in huge numbers over the years, and been used around the world. It started out from the desire to find a successor to the wartime T-34/85. The first design was the T-44, which did see service, but that became something of an interim solution as they also came up with the design for the T-54 as the Russians wanted it to mount the larger 100mm gun, a feature of the new T54 design. First produced in 1947, the earliest models of the T-54, the T-54-1 did carry the larger 100mm D10 rifled main gun, coupled with a co-axial SG MT 7.62mm machine gun along with a 12.7mm DShK (‘Dushka’) mounted on top of the turret, and two more 7.62mm SG-43 machine guns in fender mounted positions. The other significant identifying feature of this early variant is the significant undercut at the back of the turret, quite different from the later versions. Over 1400 of these early T54-1 variants entered service, and were also supplied to other countries, such as some Arab states in the Middle East.

In the late 1980’s early 1990’s, there was a series of article in Mil Mod by contributor Vasko Barbic, covering the various tank types used in the Middle East wars of the 1960’s/70’s. Best as I can remember, that was the first time I became aware of this early variant of the T-54, and the existence of that distinctive undercut turret rear. At that point I never imagined we would be lucky enough to see a plastic kit of it to be available for modellers, other than aftermarket resin turrets. Now in 2017 I have been proved wrong (not too unusual) and MiniArt have not just done in as an injection moulded plastic kit, but they have included a detailed interior and engine compartment as well. As a way of learning about tanks, and their designs, this is a good learning tool as well as being enjoyable to build.

First thing to say perhaps is to point out a couple of thing noted o the box art, as the kit contains a total of 1053 parts, which include 934 in plastic, 14 in clear plastic and 105 in photoetched brass. These include individual link tracks (90 links on each side) along with detailed engine, crew compartment and turret let alone the external details and running gear. So it will be a significant build project, and a good indicator are the 89 stages in the assembly sequence.  Painting the various interior sub-assemblies is covered by colour indicators for all the interior parts as you go along.

The build sequence starts with the well detailed V-54 engine, then the torsion bar suspension in the lower hull and the floor plates of the fighting compartment. These include fire extinguishers and a main gun round strapped down on it, and the driver’s controls in the front left of the hull. You also fit the suspension arms onto the torsion bars, while inside you add the driver’s seat, bulkhead and the detail fitting on the internal hull side walls, which includes a couple more ready rounds and a spare box of 12.7mm ammunition for the Dushka. These side walls are then fitted to the lower hull, along with the main 20-round ammunition rack that is on the right hand side of the driver and the rear mounted engine and bulkhead. Once these are done you get to the roadwheels and the external hull details. Front idlers, engine deck panels, smoke generator drums, plus the track guards and their fittings, which include the two side mounted remote 7.62mm machine guns. Before you fit the track guards, you also need to fit the individual link tracks.

With the hull done, you start on the turret, which has a lot of detail on the internal walls, as well as a well detailed breech for the 100mm main gun, even the spare ammunition box rack for the co-axial m.g.. A radio, crew seats and more ready rounds all fit inside. The external fittings include the cupola mounted 12.7mm Dushka, the periscopes, a stowed tarpaulin on the back and even the bad weather hood for the driver’s position.

Four options are provided for, one for tank number 6 of the initial production batch made at Factory No.183 at Nizhny Tagil in 1947 while the other three are for a plain green machine, another with a winter whitewash applied over the green and lastly a camouflaged example of green/dark brown/tan. These last three are all from Russian service in the early 1950’s. A well detailed model of a particularly interesting T-54 variant and a very welcome addition to the selection of T-54 kits that are available these days.

The kit is available via Creative Models, their UK importer and who supplied our example. My thanks also to Martyn for passing this one on for me to be able to review.